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'Space Mountain' Lines As Oregon Opens Recreational Market

Dismal weather in Portland, Oregon on Oct. 1 didn't put a damper on the crowds lined up outside dispensaries for their first chance to purchase legal, recreational cannabis.

Former New Approach Oregon Director and long-time legalization advocate Anthony Johnson told Civilized, "people are definitely excited and enthusiastic to experience freedom and to be a part of history."

Dispensaries have begun selling legal cannabis as legislators continue to work out regulations for the retail market.

As some shoppers camped out hours before dispensaries opened, they kept warm by sharing war stories about living under prohibition. Folks didn't have to wait quite as long at the dispensary Americanna RX, which opened shop at 12:01 a.m.

What were the lines like? At Cannacea, Johnson says, they were weaving around the block, "very similar to a line you might see at Disneyland for Space Mountain."

Missing from the sales racks were edibles and concentrates. Johnson explains that the state wants to shore up positive public opinion - and avoid any " Maureen Dowd-type incidents" - before expanding the market.

But other edibles were on hand:

According to Johnson, there were soccer moms, veterans, suits - "the whole gamut of ordinary people, really no different than [...] the Saturday market."

The warnings about cannabis use were as ubiquitous as the long lines.

Cards handed out with every purchase cautioned customers about the dangers of cannabis to minors and pregnant women. Johnson sees such warnings as a crucial part of the day's message:

"Any efforts to keep marijuana out of the hands of children is definitely something that I and other Oregon cannabis advocates support."

Absent from the scene? Protestors. Johnson noted that since 70 percent of voters supported legalization, "protesters will not have a sympathetic audience in Portland."

Johnson was surprised by "the outpouring of support and the people willing to be open and honest about their cannabis use."

Standing in line wasn't just about the product - it was a way to rebrand the face of cannabis, publicly endorse legalization, and support regulation, even though, as Johnson notes, Portland's thriving cottage cannabis industry offers other means to access buds.

For now, dispensaries will continue to have exclusive licenses to sell cannabis - which could change once the retail market is developed. The application process begins in early 2016; Johnson expects retailers to begin operating a year from today.

Now that the big day has arrived in Oregon, Johnson says he's focusing on boosting the market while allowing it to retain its unique character - much like the city's microbreweries and wineries.

Says Johnson, "we're going to be vigilant and ensure that mom-and-pop [businesses] survive."


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